austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

The track's not shaking

Near the entrance Lake Compounce is a pinched, narrow park. There's a carousel-style horse mounted on a pole in front of the entry gates, much as at its sister park Kennywood. Then there's the entrance, and behind that a midway-row of redemption games. Behind that is the older wooden roller coaster, Wildcat. Behind that is a drop tower, and behind that the mountainous ride along which their new roller coaster, Boulder Dash, runs. In pictures it looks about forty feet wide. In reality it stretches back easily as much as forty-five feet.

Much of our first impression was spent just admiring the look of the place. After the park's brush with extinction, the Kennywood and then Parques Reunidos corporate overlords worked hard to get the park back in respectable shape. That's well-done; the park looks neat, tidy, fresh-painted, in overall good order. They've got an historical marker presenting the park's claim to antiquity, dating to an ``electrifying scientific demonstration'' on the spot which one Samuel Botsford drew people to in October 1846 (``it was a dud'' that inspired one Gad Norton to open the area as a picnic park). And we found mysteries, such as the remnants of what look like trolley tracks in the park. Surely they didn't have a trolley or miniature railroad line running that recently in the park? But then surely it'd be better paved-over if it wasn't recent? Maybe it was a parade path?

Well, one of the things they do have, and I think the first thing we rode, was the Antique Carousel, of as their explanatory sign in front puts it, ``Our Beautiful Carousel''. It's been at the park since 1911, and has got mounts from at least four different carvers: Looff, Carmel, Stein-and-Goldstein, and Carmel. The National Carousel Association census reports the carousel had been at Savin Rock in West Haven, Connecticut, from 1896 to 1911, and that it was originally built in 1893. The park's sign suggests that owner Timothy Murphy ``began assembling the carousel'' in the early 1900s which makes it sound like he was just buying mounts as he could afford them. (Savin Rock operated, the Roller Coaster Database says, from the 1870s through 1966. Savin Rock's 1909-to-1940 carousel is now, the National Carousel Association census says, at Six Flags New England. The park's 1925-to-1929 carousel is now at Rye Playland. I have no information on what if any carousel they had from 1940 onward or where that's gotten to.)

Anyway, ``Beautiful'' is a fair description of the carousel. It's three abreast, with local scenery in the panels on the inside. It's a simple tan overhang with leafy patterns on the canopy. The carousel's antique, but the building is new, going back to about 1990 or so. It's located on a hillside --- this is the hilliest park we've been at since Kennywood surely --- and next to what seems to be the old ballroom, a place now used for live-entertainment shows. Oh, and it's got one of those chariots featuring a long, winged Chinese-ish dragon that looks worried by everything. I'm not sure why that's the style of older carousel chariots but it is. (The one at Rye Playland even has the dragon being intimidated by a teeny little serpent hissing at it.)

After the carousel we took advantage of one of the park's novelties: free soft drinks. Just like at Holiday World, Lake Compounce has 12-ounce cups and Pepsi-product soft drinks free for the taking. This raises the question: why does Lake Compounce have free drinks but not its sister parks? It's understandable if the chain experimented with free drinks at one park, to see if it made sense for their chain. But then if it works at one park, why not extend it to other parks? If it doesn't work, why do they keep doing it? The best fit we can make to the evidence is maybe they started doing it to make a price hike seem more palatable, and that it maybe increases goodwill or business a little bit, but not enough to bring to other places, but enough that they're stuck against changing back now. Maybe. It did strike us that the all-day meal plans for Cedar Point and its sister parks don't cost very much more than a standard admission price, suggesting that parks might be reaching the point where free food or drinks are actually thinkable alternatives.

That said, free food hasn't reached Lake Compounce. We went to The Potato Patch, part of the entrance midway, to get some of the less-complicated-looking potatoes on offer. We sat at the edge of the kiddieland area and had lunch.

Trivia: A sumptuary law passed in Rome in 161 BCE specified the amount which could be spent on food and entertainment on each day of the month. Source: A History of the World in Six Glasses, Tom Standage.

Currently Reading: Symmetry In Mechanics: A Gentle, Modern Introduction Stephanie Frank Singer.

Tags: amusement parks, lake compounce, new england parks tour

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